Tuesday, July 12, 2016

POBB July 6, 2016

Pick of the Brown Bag
July 6, 2016
Ray Tate

The Pick of the Brown Bag this week peruses The Adventures of Supergirl, Aquaman, Batman, Batman Meets Steed and Mrs. Peel, Bounty, Future Quest, Justice League, Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet, Kim & Kim, King’s Quest and Vampirella. My itsy-Bitsy comic book commentary can be found on Twitter: #PickoftheBrownBag.

This week, I can talk in depth about several of the subjects because there’s no mystery.  Hence, no spoilers.  Except perhaps Batman Meets Steed and Peel.  

It’s possible that some readers will be completely in the dark when it comes to Steed and Mrs. Peel.  Therefore, the plot details that everybody should know will seem like spoilers.  To those folk, I say this.  Batman Meets Steed and Peel is written for newcomers as well as old fans.  The wit of John Steed and Emma Peel won’t seem strange to neophytes.  

Their interaction with Batman and Robin is priceless, with Robin crushing seriously on Emma.  Catwoman’s involvement in the caper provides fodder for Steed and Peel as well as the Dynamic Duo.  

Matthew Dow Smith produced very different artwork for Doctor Who, and in this comic book, he stretches his style to photorealism.  It’s good but I was looking forward to his cartoony illustration.  Nevertheless, I recommend Batman and Steed and Peel.

Now, for those of you who know Steed and Peel as The Avengers, read on.

Batman and Robin collude with the Avengers.  Their common foe are the Cybernauts.  The Big Bad of the story duped Catwoman into working for her, and now she intends to rid herself of the curious kitty.

The story begins with Bruce Wayne catching Catwoman trying to pilfer the White Star Diamond as well as the tiger’s eye earrings of his business date Michaela Gough—get it?  Bruce cannot don his guise as Batman.  He subtly alerts Robin and Alfred, but fortunately, neither are needed.

Mrs. Peel wipes out Catwoman’s kittens and Steed puts the kibosh on the dangerous pussy.  A really sharp eyed Avengers fan will notice that when Emma approaches Catwoman’s feline fellows she snaps her fingers, just like she does to freak out an opponent in the television series.  It’s not her signature.  She only exploits this technique in one episode.  So it's terrific to see it again.

Catwoman is one of Batman's most rational foes.  She's out for kicks and simple larceny.  As such, with her sublime costume, she fits in on either television series.  Perhaps on The Avengers she would lose the ears and be a spy of some sort.  In other words, there's no villainous disconnect like there was in Batman and the Man from UNCLE.

Needless to say, Michaela Gough is in charge of the Cybernauts.  Catwoman’s reaction as well as the expression of Gotham passerby generates Cybernaut creepiness to the whole affair.  An A+ team up even if you've never heard of Steed and Peel or their metal man-foes before.

Writer Tom King conjures a rousing second issue of Batman.  Previously, Batman tried to emulate Superman.  He planned to stop a plane that had been shot with a surface-to-air missile and save everybody on board to boot. 

Yes.  That’s Batman steering a plane like a wild horse.  Yes.  He’s Bat-Crap Insane.  That’s why we love him.

All bets were laid on the table.  Batman would have sacrificed his life had it not been for the timely intervention of new heroes Gotham and Gotham Girl.  

Who are these rookie champions?  Are they actually heroes, or are they villains posing as the great and good? Are they dupes of the Watchmen who we know skulk about? In the current Batman, King reveals…absolutely nothing.

Gotham and Gotham Girl can go so many ways.  After reading their dialogue I gleaned another.  

Gotham and Gotham Girl may be Legionnaires in disguise.  Remember this scene in Rebirth?

That is a Legion Flight Ring.  The detective speaks with Saturn Girl.  Legionnaires never work alone.  They operate at least as an away team.  The Legion are in the twenty-first century.

Both Gotham and Gotham Girl exhibit superior strength and an overall tougher exterior.  Too early to call it invulnerability.  Ultra-Boy’s powers mimic those of a Kryptonian, but the Legionnaire can use only one of those abilities at a time.  The standard Legion Flight Ring gives him an advantage.

Ultra-Boy furthermore can utilize Pentra-Vision, which allows him to see through everything including pesky lead.  Lead of course hampers the X-Ray Vision of Superman and Supergirl.

Gotham Girl may be Andromeda.  Andromeda is a Daxamite.  She is the cousin to Mon-El.  Another contender for Gotham.  The Daxamites are virtually indistinguishable from Kryptonians.  Virtually.

Mon-El premiered in the Silver Age adventures of Superboy.  He succumbed to lead poisoning after being shot.  Superboy beamed Mon-El into the Phantom Zone in order to save his life.   Far in the future, the Legionnaire Brainiac Five retrieved Mon-El and injected him with an antitoxin.   Mon-El then naturally joined the Legion.  

When the post-Crisis rebooted the history of the DCU, there was no room in it for the juvenile Kryptonian cousins.  Mon-El--redubbed Valor--and Andromeda took the places of Superboy and Supergirl in Legion history.

If Gotham and Gotham Girl are Legionnaires, then Rebirth may in fact be the most optimistic Big Event in the history of comics.   If the Watchmen disrupted time and space, to take out the DC heroes, the Legion would logically be the first to know about it.  They have the tools to deal with such perturbations.  

A Kobra disciple stole the missile launcher, but Kobra would have failed.   That's what Kobra does the best.  The Watchman killed Kobra and took over the operation.  The Watchman brought the plane down, thereby endangering Batman's life.  This is actually not just an unforeseen contingency.  It's tampering with history.  Batman will die if he saves that plane.  So what would the Legion do? They would be in the right place at the right time to prevent Batman's sacrifice.

Okay.  Okay.  Suppose, you don't give a flying fig about Rebirth or the potential awesome of the Legion interfering with a Watchmen time-disrupting scheme?  Writer King and artists Dave Finch, Matt Banning, Danny Miki and Jordie Bellaire have got you covered.  

First of all Gotham and Gotham Girl sound a lot like Jan and Jace to Batman's Space Ghost.

Second, King opens the story with Solomon Grundy, a foe Batman inherited from Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern.

Third, scenes like this.

Batman appears to manifest out the steam of a Gotham grate!  How cool is that? Batman did freaky things like this a lot during the seventies.  He liked to use stage magic to facilitate his Bat creature mystique.  Most of this sort of sleight of hand fell by the wayside upon the firm establishment of the mess that was the post-Crisis.  During that era, too many writers and artists emphasized Batman's lack of humanity and his failures, not his unparalleled combat skills nor his mastery of prestidigitation.  King and company seem to have no trouble in presenting all the facets of Batman.  So, Batman appeals to both the pure Batman fan and the Rebirth follower.

Round Two of Aquaman consists of Aquaman and his arch-nemesis skewering and beating on each other, but this is no mere slugfest.  

Writer Dan Abnett addresses the vengeance cycle that Black Manta rides.  He demonstrates the differences between Aquaman and Manta, who on the surface is in the right.  Artist Scott Eaton gets the chance to display his skill with nuanced emotion not just badass action, and he doesn’t waste the opportunity.  Part of the reason why Abnett’s story is so convincing is due to Eaton’s skill.

As a result of this care in both writing and artwork, Aquaman is easily the most impressive of the Rebirth titles.  

The duel isn't the only draw in Aquaman.  Abnett's skeleton of overall plotting is interesting.  With the aftermath of Manta’s attack on Atlantean Embassy Spindrift, Abnett grants greater depth to Murk, the scarred Atlantean soldier that dislikes humanity but stays loyal to his king and his country.

Furthermore, Abnett reveals the fate of Mera, distinguishes her from Aquaman so she is not a mere extension of him and forges the beginnings of a strong friendship with Royal Naval Lieutenant Stubbs.  At the conclusion when it appears the silt has settled, Abnett surprises the reader with a James Bond styled engagement that introduces what appears to be an old Aquaman villain in a new form.

Adventures of Supergirl benefits immensely from Cat Staggs’ staggering artwork and John Rauch’s moody colors.  Without Staggs’ and Rauch’s mastery, writer Sterling Gates’ words would be limp.  Instead, Adventures of Supergirl echoes the series’ most dramatic episodes.

Kara and Alex visit the artificial intelligence that accompanied Supergirl’s ship.  Established in the Donner Superman movies, the Kryptonians developed computer databases that take the form and bear the personalities of their lost loved ones.  In Kara’s case, she asks questions of the a.i. bearing the visage of her mother.  These questions pertain to Facet the antagonist introduced last issue.

Gates imagines some intriguing additions to typical Kryptonian lore.  For one thing, Krypton was a melting pot of aliens.  Despite benefitting from advanced technology, Krypton wasn’t a Utopia.  They had prisons before the series’ Fort Razz.

I know that The Adventures of Supergirl is a comic book and not canonical to the television series, but it’s worth pointing out that there’s an inordinate number of aliens in Krypton’s penal system.  This number appears to present an argument that crime is committed by foreign agencies not homegrown felons.  However, according to Supergirl, Krypton became a welcome place for alien incarceration because of its progressive rehabilitation methods.  Gates doesn’t remind readers about that bit of continuity, and he probably should have.  When you read Adventures of Supergirl, the creative team emphasize alien criminals.  There probably should have been more native born from Krypton in the spotlight.

In the second part of The Adventures of Supergirl Facet attacks.  The art here by Emma Vieceli is more open, the colors by Sandra Molina brighter.  Each illustrator suits the funner big budget movie mood.  While the second vignette is less interesting than the first, this is only due to the fact that the first was just so damn good.  The second chapter would stand up to any quality action book.  Unlike Justice League.

Justice League is less of a story and more of an outline with bits added on to it.  Entitled “Fear the Reaper” Legion….

…appears out of nowhere and starts tearing up a city.  With Gamera out of commission…

…The Justice League try to stop the beast.  Alas, things get worse because Legion sends out little Legions to attack innocent people.

…Although I do realize that this is Starro’s shtick as well.  So the Reaper could be the new 52 version of Starro the Conqueror, who gets name checked by the Superman from Another Universe.

I do think about Gamera and Godzilla a lot.  Maybe I’m biased.  So, sloppy Starro remake, or bad transplant of Gamera villain.  You decide.  Problems arise from either decision.  

If you go the kaiju route you end up with an unenviable comparison to one of three great Gamera films.  You’re going to lose that one.  Believe me.  If you pick reboot, then you’re missing the point of what makes Starro so creepy.  The Starro spore becomes the victim’s face.  Each spore bears a terrible looking eye.  Inspired by Alien, Starro follows in the vein of body horror imagined by H.P. Lovecraft.  

Having a cuttle fish dumped on your head?  That’s just comical.  Yes, but it’s a mind-controlling cuttlefish!  Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Nope.  Still comical.  To stop this thing, the Justice League do something that provides the only bit of intentional wit to the rough draft.

That’s the kind of dialogue I like to read.  Not in this story, mind you, but definitely the kind of repartee I enjoy.

Tacked onto the main story, Bryan Hitch checks in on Superman from another Universe and his sexbot Lois Lane.

Great cosmos! Could that be actual dialogue with a tiny shred of meaning! Lois had a meaningful line! Lois had a meaningful line!  Apparently, Hitch didn’t get the memo ordering Lois to speak the dullest plot-oriented, mom words imaginable.  He did get the memo about adding suspicion about this strange sphincter from another universe.

He also read the e-mail about mentioning what’s going on in the Green Lantern books.

That’s an example of how this story reads like a first draft.  All Hitch had to do was identify the Lanterns dealing with some mass life-loss threat to explain their lateness.  Instead, he adds the bit about the Red Lanterns.  Nobody cares.  Nobody who reads The Justice League gives a rat’s ass about the Lucky Charms Lanterns.

In summary, Justice League barely musters a passable tier.  The story’s perfunctory, derivative and interrupted by scene cutaways that really didn’t need to be there.  On the other hand, a tiny portion of the dialogue is good.  Maybe two iotas worth.  Lois Lane from another Universe hasn’t been better written, but that’s more of a testament to the shoddy characterization she’s had from day one.  Oh, and by the way Hitch has illustrated the League way better, but I get the impression that this whole thing was cobbled together from leftover parts and editorial notes.  So why bother giving it your best.  It’s not like anyone is paying for these comic books.

In Future Quest writer Jeff Parker takes the reader far and wide within the adventurous world of Hanna-Barbera.  The world eating monster that catalyzed the origin of Space Ghost returns, and Space Ghost does the only thing he can do.  

He rallies an army consisting of the Galaxy Trio and the Herculoids to beat back the thing.  The creature mimics a real life oddity in nature called the sea cucumber.  Like the cucumber, when threatened the entity escapes by ejecting mass to increase its velocity and confuse the would be devourer.  

It furthermore opens up vortices to ensure escape.  Our heroes become sucked into these wormholes, and travel to other worlds.  One of those worlds is the earth of the past.

Johnny, Hadji and their new colleague Ty follow the trail of a meteorite, and what they find is a seriously damaged Phantom Cruiser with Space Ghost's niece Jan banged up but alive inside.

Johnny and Hadji carry Jan away from the wreckage to get her to a hospital.  They're confronted by Blip Space Ghost's pet monkey, but with one of Hadji's magic tricks, they soon convince the simian whose side they're on.

Johnny isn't the only one attracted to the UFO, Quest villain Dr. Zin sends his Agents of FEAR to end the Quest lads and steal the prize, but unknown to Fear, the Quests have serious firepower on their side.

Why is it that Birdman, who is absolutely fantastic yet nevertheless a Hawkman knockoff better than Hawkman?  The Crisis of Infinite fucking Earths that's why.

Before that misery Hawkman and Hawkgirl were as magnificent as Birdman is in Future Quest and easy to understand.  Space Hawks on earth one.  Magic Hawks on earth two.  Turning them into reincarnations of each other was a massive blunder.  Anywho, that's all right because we have Birdman, teaming up with Race Bannon and Dr. Quest himself.

This is a great moment because it demonstrates Dr. Quest's love for his sons and the need for a Race Bannon.  The implication is that Dr. Quest's brilliant mind must be harnessed for good.  He must be undistracted.  The government gave him the perfect deal.  He would work on whatever projects interested him to better the world.  They in turn would give him the equivalent of a Navy Seal to watch over the inquisitive Quest lads.  Parker though isn't done.  At the end of Future Quest the scribe pulls another rabbit out of his hat.  A character from the Quest past reveals herself and promises to complicate the story even farther.

King’s Quest reveals the origin of Dale Arden Empress of Ming.  This is a nasty piece of work and unlike Parker's daring-do debut Flash Gordon comic book.  Writers Ben Acker and Heath Corson take a decidedly different approach.

There are many things in King's Quest that you won't be able to unsee.  That said.  It's not a bad book at all.  The story fits Ming's persona from the serials.  Dale's reasoning is complex and satisfying.  It bridges the character you think she is and the character that tortures the Defenders of the Earth now.  I'm open to a dark story if that darkness serves a purpose.  The darkness in King's Quest reinvents Dale Arden and eliminates a common cliche that true love conquers all.  Lesbian love at that.

If you’re not aware, shame on you.  The Lone Ranger and the Green Hornet are related.  This was established long ago on the Green Hornet radio series from 1930s.  Michael Uslan’s newest Green Hornet story makes this relationship explicit.

It's a kick to see the Lone Ranger still alive and well in the twentieth century.  To see him transition from the era of horses to motor cars to even automotive innovation.  However, once that initial giddiness wears off, the story still interests through a series of unforeseen events.

The man wanting the Lone Ranger is a real life lawman, and it's so justified that he of all people would look upon masked vigilantes as a solution not a problem.  The question recharges the giddiness.  The Lone Ranger and the neophyte Green Hornet are going after Nazis, specifically the American Bunds.  Uslan draws upon the true pestilence of the period.  He mentions the ego stations of Hitler sympathizers.  He demonstrates a need for a new outlaw.  A perfect team-up, and the second one in which an older hero demonstrates a spryness that belies his age.

All you need to know about Vampirella is in the graphic.  Arabella Slade is an immortal actress who feeds extras to monsters, to secure her power, when not draining their life energy herself.  When Vampirella moved to Los Angeles, Slade threw down the gauntlet.  The conflict escalated.  Vee and her friends ended up in Slade's dungeon.  

Slade came prepared.  She bought a pair of manacles magically impregnated to prevent Vampirella from ever breaking free.  The conclusion to Vampirella solves the problem in a brilliant manner that allows Vee to gain a plausible, fair play victory and identify herself as a resourceful alien, not the undead.  Kate Leth wraps things up with a bow, seeing opportunities for other characters and philosophizing that not all monsters are bad ones.  

Two bounty hunting books this week.  Both occur in an intergalactic setting.  Both feature kickass female protagonists.  Both exhibit stylish artwork, yet one is superior.

In Bounty Nina and Georgie are bounty hunting sisters who along with Viv try to make a profit and keep their operations afloat.  


The subplot outlined in a lengthy flashback I suspect involves seeking vengeance for Nina's husband Alan, who is part of the team in the past but not in the present.  


The bounty hunters in Bounty frequently resemble super-heroes.  They wear colorful body armor have different identities.  


They're instantly recognizable, and in the case of Nina's and Georgie's team the Gadflies, they're cognizant of innocent people getting diced in the crossfire.  That said.  Bounty has a different feeling than that of a superhero book.  Thanks to the stylish artwork of Mindy Lee and Leonardo Oler Nina and Georgie's universe is grungy but also wondrous and unique.

Bounty and Kim & Kim bear surprising overlaps, but each book deals with the common ground differently.  The vacated felon in Bounty forces the team to search for different, more dangerous game.  It also perhaps plants a seed of mystery to be explored in later chapters.  Kim & Kim on the other hand look at it this way.

Kim & Kim

The title to Kim & Kim is self-explanatory.  Kim and Kim are friends and bounty hunting partners.  They act through an agent and rely on each other in a world of bounty hunting cliques.  One of those cliques offers them a deal that makes up for the vacated bounty, but the bad blood between one of the Kims and the clique quickly sends the two meandering.

Kim & Kim

The Kim that decided not to go with the peace offering is a woman who was formerly a man.  Despite this positive LGBT stance, I lean toward Bounty being the better buy of the two.

Kim & Kim

Kim and Kim's new quarry is a genetic mutant or something.  However, Kim & Kim really don't make very good use of their science fiction possibilities.  Whereas Bounty features spacecraft, cyberspace elements and various other shades of the genre.


Kim and Kim come off as spoiled kids and never really seem touched by events that surround them.  


The characters in Bounty on the other hand face dramatic situations, from day to day economic realities to enemies that want them dead.  The characters are furthermore motivated by love.  The love between sisters.  The love between husband and wife.  The love between friends.  Kim and Kim seem more like Ab/Fab by way of Space Trucker.

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